The two women went downstairs where de Bruges (correction, not ‘de Bruin’) awaited them. “My dear,” said de Bruges, “you are perfectly on-time.” Turning to Rivanon he said, “and you are?” “Her proctor in this matter, Lady d’Uzec.” Rivanon showed him the contract and then gave him a note saying, “assuming you are a man of your word.” He took the note, read it, and nodded, “Of course.”
Putting the note away, he said, “well, that business will of course be completed afterwards. Come come.” The three of them entered the designated meeting room. A table was set up in the center.
On one side was Donan, a gnarled, gaunt, but proud man whom Emmeline had only met twice, the second time being most a unpleasant altercation at the local Temple gates where Emmeline had removed herself from an unfortunate wedding attempt her uncle had arranged. Next to him on the left, and somewhat unexpected, was Deniel, a 30-ish, shy man of unfortunate birth who did not speak up. Unlike his father, he wore more of his wealth in his clothing choices. Confident in business, but not in affairs of the heart. On the right was what looked like a merchant, an older, prudish man of arrogant bearing. Those not seated were two guards in the back of the room. They looked uncomfortable jammed into their side of the table. De Bruges pulled out a chair of the two on the near side for Emmeline. Rivanon stayed just within the door. De Bruges took the other chair.
Donan demanded, “who is that?” Before Emmeline could talk, de Bruges answered, “she is a representative for dear Emmeline here and not involved in this part of our transaction. You will note, as per the agreement written at our date of last discussion, myself and my companion have delivered one Emmeline, daughter of Hoel, niece of Mazerin. Before any new business commences, I require mine to be completed.
Donan looked to the merchant, who passed a small box of coin to de Bruges. “Thank you,” de Bruges said. With that he nodded to Emmeline, and then to Rivanon, and left.
“Now,” said Donan, “your uncle two years ago promised you and your dowry to myself and my son. Since that time you have run off and your uncle has sought other suitors – as if my son,” pointing at Deniel, “and my business is not enough for him. We are here to hold you to your part of your uncle’s agreement.”
Rivanon did not speak yet, nor did she sit, knowing Emmeline would respond.
“My uncle has clearly not been dealing straight with you.” Emmeline shook her head sadly. “There is no dowry. I had to assume he is attempting some kind of swindle. Please take my advice and have no more to do with him — or me. I have nothing to offer you. Your son deserves better than a fictional dowry.”
“Of course he does,” Donan replied, “your father’s land interests me. That will be your dowry. Your uncle will receive a brideprice and our business. You will receive a household of means and a stable husband. My son will have a beautiful wife and hopefully many children.” He looked exasperated, “I don’t understand why this doesn’t appeal to a farm girl like you?”
“I have my own life and even my own people to think about now. If you want my father’s land, then buy it from my uncle and leave me out of it,” Emmeline said. She turned to Donan’s son. “Deniel. Is this what you want? A bride forced against her will? To see your father take my family’s farm against my wishes? Do you think I would ever forgive such actions, or the son of the man who would do this to me?”
Deniel melted a bit in his chair. Donan pointed at Emmeline, but before he could say anything, Rivanon spoke up, “You have already indicated that the contract you had with Mazarin is expired – he has offered her to others since; therefore, regardless of any other action we introduce, you have no standing of any kind. There is no extant contract, I do not see Mazarin here to contest this, and frankly we have already contested his own standing to make any of these offers…”
“Now listen here missy…” Donan growled as he stood up.
“Sit down, shut up, and listen,” Rivanon demanded with sudden aggressive power.
“First, I am Dame Rivanon Lady d’Uzec, her proctor and advisor as noted in this document. Second, should you disrespect me or my client again, then this discussion is over and I will cite you with contempt of an officer of the court – adding formal charges of conspiracy to kidnap a Citizen, and anything else I can think of. Do you admit your contract has lapsed?”
He grumbled, arms-crossed, “Yes…”
Rivanon smiled, “Then we have nothing more to say except this: we are contesting Mazarin’s standing to even make you this offer. Should you decide to let this go, and we are successful in our claim – of which I have no doubt, then you will find Mazarin in a very actionable position you can exploit. Think about it and send your answer here.” she threw a small envelope to him.
“M’mselle, we are done.”
Rivanon and Emmeline left the room with the others perplexed and with jaws dropping. “Good job Emma,” Rivanon said after they had successfully exited the area moving toward Emmeline’s room.
“Me? Oh, no m’lady, you really took control in there!” Emmeline was all smiles. “That was magnificent! I think there might be a poem inspired by that in there somewhere. Now, I need only collect my money from de Bruges. He owes me, I think, 500 in gold, which I was hoping to use to pay for some of this work you’ve been doing.”
Rivanon nodded humbly, “I did nothing special, your response set the tone and drew out that their contract was expired – which makes sense given the variety of people trying to kidnap you. Concerning the money, you will find that Mssr de Bruges has left the coin in question with the bartender.” She looks at him, “and he has been honest and not taken off the top, so no need to count it now.”
Emmeline raised an eyebrow. “You have a keen insight to know that.” She retrieved the coin from the barkeep, then left five pieces on the counter for him. “I think your father has it in him to outlive us all, but if fate had it otherwise, you’d make a formidable baronness.”
Emmeline smiled and lead the way back to her little room. “Time to change. I have a performance to ready, one in which I shall tell you the story of the Goblins of Calder Falls, and the Tyanites’ Fall. You’ll have the advantage of your insight to determine their truth.”
Rivanon replied, “Perhaps, perhaps not, depends on the teller. But I trust it will be entertaining.” She smiled a touch, “Emma, tell you what, I’ll change, get a table, and observe the show and perhaps learn a bit more in song about the goings-on in my dear homeland.” With that, she turned and started to depart, “with today’s events it is likely we can wait until first thing tomorrow to continue our research against your uncle.” With that said, she left for downstairs.
Emmeline finished changing into the garb she preferred to wear as an entertainer. She noted she was low on such outfits, having only one left and resolved to buy or put together another at the first opportunity.
This one was a black over-bust corset with a mini jacket that had white lace sewn over top that made it look grey when not up close. She wore loose sleeves and a skirt that fell to just above her knees. Her boots were tall and black, with fold-over tops, that came to just below the knee. In such garb she knew she was certain to capture the interested attention of every man and woman in a room. It also had the advantage of showing her off a little while still allowing her full movement to dance, play her violin and sing.
Finally ready, she lifted the aged violin case that held her most treasured possession, and went down to the main floor. While she waited her turn on the stage, she made the usual arrangements with the barkeep. It was traditional to show appreciation for talent in Thalassa to buy the entertainer a drink, but when a very talented entertainer made an impression there tended to be a lot more appreciation flowing than any entertainer could handle. So, when a drink was purchased and sent to an entertainer recipient, the barkeep would instead simply send a mug or cup of water. The money spent on the drink would then be split between the barkeep (or owner) and the entertainer at the end of the night. Thus, all parties were satisfied, and the entertainer didn’t end up passed out somewhere.
With the arrangements made, it was soon her turn to take her place on the little stage.
Emmeline started with some traditional favorites to warm the crowd to her style, as well as to bide time until Rivanon returned.
Rivanon entered inn’s common room where the performances were held. They had enough of them that they required a stage almost all of the time. Rivanon sat at a small table half way back on to the far right so she could observe both Emmeline and the crowd’s reactions to her. Another female patron took the seat opposite of her soon after. As Emmeline finished her warm up minutes later, the crowd had become standing room only.
Emmeline went into her main act, starting with The Goblins of Calder. The piece mesmerized the audience for over ten minutes. By the end the catchy choruses and the jaunty, infectious tune, got the the place singing. Even Rivanon sang a bit, until self-consciously stopping, smiling, and enjoying the music and ambiance. Emmeline could see her jot down a few notes.
With a pause, Emmeline thanked her audience and introduced the song Festival of Love, which she explained was, “a little newer song I wrote about a festival I visited and some people I met there. I hope you like it.” She then starts into her song about a noble but cautious lord and a common woman who falls for him. It was a romantic version of true events, of course, but contains a lot of truth. When it ends with the lord making the common woman the Queen of Love and Beauty to preside at the festival at his side, the more romantic in the audience weep, and lovers in the audience hold hands. Rivanon on the other hand was briefly unplussed, simply not sure how to react. She held her composure and jotted down more notes, clapping when the audience did.
From the love ballad Emmeline moved into a faster tempo, a song with some heavy stomp accompanying a blood-pumping riff. It’s called The Tyanite’s Fall and it hints at connections with the Goblins of Calder, a destructive plan to sow terror and discord across the frontiers using magical tools of unknown power, the fall of a Tyanite and her minions, but hints at more verses yet unwritten. The audience gets into the song and enjoys themselves tremendously. Rivanon clapped with the audience, letting herself enjoy the song – though not too much. The woman next to Rivanon leaves after this song and departs, leaving an open chair.
Rivanon realizes there is much more to Emmeline than being a simple entertainer with family issues. Much more indeed.
Emmeline’s final, lively piece was an old favorite of her grandfather’s. It was a very complex piece that pushed the skills of a violinist. While the tune was good on its own, it was even better if a singer could join her in a duet. While her grandfather was alive, she’d sung for him while he played the complicated instrumental portion and harmonized. Now she was able to play it herself.
“My last piece is a favorite of mine called The Elf Wife. Do I have a volunteer to sing the melody.” She looked around the room and let her eyes settled upon Rivanon. “Lady d’Uzec? Might you do me the honor of joining me in one song?”
“I’m familiar with the words,” she said with subtle smile while remaining seated. With everyone looking at her, she said after a pause, and then relenting, “I suppose one song.” She sipped her water, gracefully lifted herself from her chair and walked onto the stage. The audience clapped and she humbly waved them down, “don’t applaud yet, you don’t know how well I sing,” she joked gaining a laugh from them.
As Emmeline began playing the complex instrumental, Rivanon went into the words. Emmeline could tell she was formally trained, with a contralto voice (low female) with a touch of playfulness, and an ability to project very well. She was not as practiced at this type of music as Emmeline, but she held her own. Unlike Emmeline’s earlier energetic and playful performance style, Rivanon’s was more etherial and understated – yet the two of them successfully blended their approaches, captivating the audience.
When the song finished, Emmeline took a bow and had Rivanon take one, too. It was time for a short break so she retreated to Rivanon’s table.
“So? What do you think?” she asked when they were seated.
“You wouldn’t make a good farmer’s wife, that is for certain,” she replied with a understated smile. “Given your background and talent, I’m curious why you did not follow Emmeric’s footsteps? Or maybe you did in your own way, own your own. Your skills speak for themselves.”
“The destiny that seems to have found me is quite different from what it had in store for Grandfather,” Emmeline said not a little cryptically.
“Destiny?” Rhivanon replied with a slightly upraised eyebrow. “Perhaps. You have had quite the exciting life already, sans the years with your uncle, and are no mere mistral. I only learned of the Calder Falls news from my father a few days ago. The fight in Derrien I hadn’t heard of until now. The middle story is of more interest to me,” she asked with a slight air of suspicion and curiosity. “There is only one lord in Uzec who hosts the summer festival. After your next set, you should tell me who was your model for the Queen of Love and Beauty.”
“Um, yeah. The… model,” Emmeline said. She finished gulping down some water, then headed back to the stage to finish out her performance for the evening.
When the performance was done, the alcohol imbibed by the patrons, and an enjoyable time found by all, Emmeline got her usual congratulations, a half-dozen pieces of gold from the bar via admirers, and the usual advances – some vulgar, but others gentlemanly, the venue started clearing out. Some patrons tarried, including Rivanon, sitting at the same table.
Emmeline rejoined Rivanon. She was intensely curious to see how her new friend felt about the baron sending her to “mentor” Rivanon now that she had some understanding of what that might really entail, but she didn’t want to rush Rivanon into processing all that she’d heard. Likely, the young Lady was still processing what she’d heard early in the evening.
The fact that Emmeline was feeling a little skittish about answering Rivanon’s question about the model she’d used for the The Festival of Love, also made her hesitant to say anything too specific. Ultimately, she went with, “Did you enjoy the performance tonight?”
“Yes. The audience seemed to enjoy it as well,” she replied, taking a sip from her near empty glass,” Peering over the glass she added, “I do not wish to speak out of turn or be impolite, but is there something you wish to share with me?” She placed her glass down, cradled her chin on her hand, and waited for an answer patiently.
Emmeline hesitated, then simply went right to the point. “I like your father very much and I think he likes me. There is no courting going on, if that’s what you really like to know. He knew me only a few short days and he already knew that I needed to be free to travel, even though he well knew that if he asked, I would have stayed with him. And yes, he did make me the festival queen. I waxed a little poetic in the song.”
Rivanon looked unsurprised, “Yes you did, you came off genuine – which I see is in fact true. It is all right though, I appreciate your honesty both in song and here and now. My father is very magnetic and you are not the first person who has been drawn to him.”
Emmeline smile, a little relieved Rivanon wasn’t upset. “What do you think of the rest?”
“You did well, very autobiographic like your grandfather. Over time your tales will evolve, such as the third tale which seems ongoing. I was a bit surprised you asked me on stage, but so it goes,” Rivanon answered with a light smile. Despite Rhivanon seeming calm and pleasant, Emmeline could sense an undercurrent of something elusive, something bothering her. Changing the subject a bit Rivanon concluded, “we should likely part ways for the evening. I can meet you early tomorrow morning here and we can go to the Hall of Records. I’ve draw up a list of possible records and documents we can reference. Until then?”
Emmeline watched Rivanon for a moment. She decided to wait and see if Rivanon might bring up what was disturbing her on her own. “Yes. Today has been a long one. Until tomorrow.”
Rivanon said her farewells and then left the inn.
The following morning when Emmeline came downstairs at the inn, Rivanon was there waiting. She was no longer dressed in her school outfit or legal robes, but in classy but understated attire. Rich material, but with minimal embellishment. She saw Emmeline and said, “you look well this morning.”
“As do you,” Emmeline returned with a greeting smile. “I’m ready to go to the Hall of Records anytime.” After a pause, she said, “Unless you’d like to discuss what’s on your mind first?”
“On my mind? Yes, I suppose we can chat along the way.” The women left the Second Phoenix and walked north-west toward the Hall of Records. “First impressions Emma, I like you. I don’t know how comfortable I am with you being a mentor as we are the same age, but if my father trusts you, I will. On the other side, you seem to have a natural savoir-faire that perhaps I can help you with when it comes to high-society – if you wish.” Emmeline felt this was part of it, but there was something more, something elusive.
“That would be kind of you,” Emmeline said, “should I ever be welcome in something like high society. I’m not entirely comfortable with the term, “mentor”, either. Let your father call it whatever he wants or needs to call it. Between us, I’d rather it simply be traveling companions for a time. This is the way entertainers always work in any case. We are a somewhat less formal bunch even than bards. But that’s not all that’s on your mind, is it.”
“No. And yes, I do tend to be formal and precise. It has been and will be my duty.” She paused a bit, then continued, “It is duty to which I am happy to be part of. Normally I wouldn’t trust you with this concern, but as you have trusted me with your marriage fate, I suppose it is fair for me to discuss this. Do you intend to marry my father and by him produce children?” Emmeline could tell she was not comfortable being direct on this subject.
Emmeline was so startled she misstepped and nearly fell. It took her a moment to gather her composure again. “Uh. Wow.” Upon seeing Rivanon’s intent expression, Emmeline hurried to add, “But I appreciate your directness. Truly. But I spoke honestly when I said we were not courting, and so I hadn’t allowed myself to think on it.”
She was quiet a few moments while they continued to walk together. She knew that Rivanon wanted an answer, but was too polite to push for it. “You’re right. I I *should* think about it. Even if nothing more ever happens between the Baron and I, there is no shame or harm in thinking things through, is there?”
Emmeline gestured vaguely around them. “I’m surrounded by them all the time. Men interested in me. Mostly it’s just the common lust for a momentary diversion, a purely physical thing that has little meaning. Other times it’s for financial reasons, as we understand all too well today. Some people encourage me to take advantage of them wherever and however I can, for I well know they’d do the same to me given half a chance. I think most other women in my position certainly would and probably profit by it. I probably eventually would, too, had I never met your father.
“But now I can’t help but think how disappointed he’d be if I did something like that. He has no official or as far as I know, intended, claim on me so I’m probably being foolish to even worry about it. Yet I can’t help feeling that I’d really let him down, if I let myself be used in such a low manner, no matter what I thought I could gain.”
She stopped walking and turned to face Rivanon. “All that said, m’lady, I want you to understand I would never attempt to manipulate or coerce your father in any way, no matter how I felt about him. Nor do I have any plan or idea to do anything or become anything that might subvert or supplant your own standing or future.”
Rivanon replied, “I appreciate that and I believe you. Others have tried to use my father – unsuccessfully. Its complicated but I worry about that.” She seemed very genuine, continuing, “I am very protective of my father, as he is of me. Yet, everything I sense about you is an honest, warm person. As far as using your wiles to manipulate men, well like you I’m only willing to go so far. Frankly, I prefer they fear me.” She gave a big smile at that.
“But for now, my duty is to get you to a legal position freeing you from any outdated traditions. Ah, here we are.” Above them the Great Library was a crescent of three towering buildings dead center of the isle overlooking a smaller temple (The Vault), and many other smaller ceremonial buildings in the Forum Primus. Rivanon led Emmeline into the northern library entrance, up the stairs into a brightly lit records hall. Not since a tour in her childhood had Emmeline seen it, and it was just as impressive now.
Into the silent chaos of the library, Rivanon walked up to a clerk and said, “Good morning. If you would be so kind, we require access to the final will and testaments of these two persons, the agreements and tenure of this parcel of Thalassa Isle, and any public contracts between these three persons here. Also, if you have any marriage agreements between this person here and any of these enumerated below.”
The clerk replied, “this will take some time. I can give you access to the parcel information now.” She wrote down several numbers. “Bring this to the librarian on Level 2, Section 10.”
“Thank you,” Rivanon replied. “So while they gather the more esoteric records, we can review the current land agreements for those hundred acres or so your father once owned. Any questions? This will be a bit of a walk.”
“Hm. No, I don’t think I have any questions presently,” Emmeline said. “My father’s side of the family is actually more of a mystery to me than my mother’s side, since it was my mother’s father I spent so much time with. So, I really don’t know where, when or how my father came into his land.”
“Let’s find out shall we!” Rivanon said with a smile. “You see that bald woman over there in the tunic and habit? That’s one of the Librarians. They are utterly devoted to the maintenance of the Library, in this case property records. “Hello sister. We humbly ask your assistance in finding records concerning this land grant.” Handing the librarian the details, she bowed silently and ushered the two of them into the stacks. Pulling a ladder along a runner as she walked. She stopped after a short walk and climbed the ladder, retrieving a large bound set of maps. “Your answer is in here.”
Opening the plat map, Rivanon and Emmeline went through multiple references, eventually finding the following:
Freehold of West Andrésy
220 acres overlooking the south-west coast (plus a lot of details on location, etc.):
- Addendum – see will of Emmeric Brunét. 445.4.11
- In trust to Mazarin de Garin as leasehold for Emmeline, daughter of Hoel de Garin, by Emmeric Brunét (until Emmerline’s majority) 445.4.8
- In leasehold to Mazarin de Garin from Emmeline, daughter of Hoel de Garin, via the will of Hoel de Garin his brother (until Emmeline’s majority) and through agreement on custody of Emmeline between Emmeric Brunét and Mazarin de Garin. 435.3.21
- Freehold rights gifted to the person of Hoel de Garin, by Adelaide, daughter of Raoul de Caan, as per the marriage of Hoel de Garin to Lara, daughter of Adelaide by Emmeric Brunét as a dowery gift, with all rights and responsibilities. 425.7.12
- Freehold rights gifted to the person of Adelaide, daughter of Raoul de Caan, by Emmeric Brunét. 403.3.28
- Freehold rights granted to the person of Emmeric Brunét, by Geoff Ravenelle by purchase and rendered services. 402.8.13
- Separated from Andrésy by Geoff Ravenelle. Approved by Interior Ministry 402.7.21
- Freehold rights, etc…
“So Emmeline, what do you make of this?” Rivanon asked. “It is looking that your father only came into the land through marriage.”
“It was granted as part of my mother’s dowry to my father, then it was only leased to uncle Mazarin until I came of age. But what is the part about my grandfather and Mazaric negotiating custody of me? I don’t understand that part,” Emmeline said. “Then it says in trust to Mazarin, I guess after my grandfather’s death. Is that different from leasehold?”
“A freehold is held by an owner, there were maybe a thousand of them originally. A leasehold is a freehold or public lands leased to another, usually tenants, but often to other freeholders to manage,” replied Rivanon.
Rivanon continued, “The trust means that Mazarin runs it for you and your upkeep. Likely until your majority, 21 years of age, or until you marry, whichever comes first.”
“I guess we really need to find out what is in that will next.”